|Sportsbook||Win NL West||Win NL Pennant||World Series|
|Over/Under Season Win Total: 101.5 (BetOnline)|
The Los Angeles Dodgers have to be pretty happy with what has transpired the last few months. The Houston Astros beat them in the 2017 World Series by cheating and the Boston Red Sox seem to have done the same thing in the 2018 World Series. They also lost a Game 5 at home in the NLDS against a Wild Card team. Something about getting kicked while you’re already down or something.
Maybe this is the year for the Dodgers. Maybe they should have kept up with the Joneses and stole signs themselves so that they could end what is now a 32-year World Series drought. They’ve certainly had their chances with seven straight NL West titles, but not one of those seasons has finished with a win in the last game. All of them have ended with a loss, twice in the World Series, twice in the NLCS, and three times in the NLDS.
Last season’s Dodgers team was the best of the bunch. The Dodgers won 106 games for the first time in franchise history. Their .662 Pythagorean Win-Loss percentage was the second-highest in franchise history. The highest one came back in 1942. The Dodgers outscored the opposition by 273 runs. The Dodgers also flirted with four million in attendance, which gives you an idea of just how loaded this team was and how excited people were about their chances.
Instead, it ended with Lucy pulling the proverbial football out when Charlie Brown went to kick it. Where do the Dodgers go from here? The regular season has to be pretty boring by this point. The 2017 hangover that led to 92 wins in 2018 was not evident in 2019. After losing in five games instead of seven, the Dodgers took out their frustrations by nearly setting a franchise record with those 106 wins.
In a lot of ways, the Dodgers have nothing to play for over the first 162 games. They’re an enormous favorite to win the West after doing so by 21 games last season. They’re a favorite to get home field advantage throughout the duration of the NL playoffs and probably won’t have a team in the American League finish higher than them overall. It’s all about focus and motivation, really. The Dodgers are more talented than just about every team that they play over the course of the season and dominated the division at 51-25.
Last year’s season win total was way too light at 94.5. The Dodgers “only” won 92 games in 2018, but underachieved by 10 games relative to their Pythagorean Win-Loss and nine games relative to their BaseRuns expectation. The funny thing about this Dodgers team? They won 106 games and STILL underachieved relative to their BaseRuns expectation and 3rd Order Win%. By 3rd Order Win%, they were one of the best teams ever.
With Mookie Betts now in the fold, the Dodgers went from the clear-cut favorite to win the NL to the clearest-cut favorite to win the NL and get to the World Series. Is there any way that they don’t go over their season win total number?
|BaseRuns Run Differential||+286 (5.42/3.66)|
|3rd Order Win% Record||113.8-48.2|
|Record in One-Run Games||27-22|
|Additions: Terrance Gore, Alex Wood, Edubray Ramos, Jimmy Nelson, Kyle Lobstein, Blake Treinen, Rocky Gale, David Price, Mookie Betts, Luke Raley, Brusdar Graterol, Clayton Daniel|
|Losses: JT Chargois, Yimi Garcia, Kristopher Negron, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Russell Martin, Tyler Thornburg, Jedd Gyorko, Connor Wong, Jeter Downs, Alex Verdugo, Jair Camargo, Kenta Maeda, Casey Sadler|
The Dodgers took it up a notch in their pursuit of a World Series. They traded for Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Connor Wong, Jeter Downs, and Alex Verdugo. Lumped into the three-team deal were Kenta Maeda to Minnesota and Brusdar Graterol to the Dodgers.
The Dodgers one of very few teams that can actually justify the enormous salary cost of Betts after his current contract runs out, so maybe this isn’t a one-year rental. Some would say that the two best players in baseball now participate for teams with Los Angeles in the name.
While Betts and Price get all the headlines, I really like some of the other additions, particularly those on the pitching side. Alex Wood is very underrated as a starter because of his health profile. Jimmy Nelson and Blake Treinen are really interesting pieces for the bullpen and the Red Sox loss could be the Dodgers’ gain with Graterol.
As far as other losses, the Dodgers do lose Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda, but they have plenty
The Dodgers added a player that posted a .295/.391/.524 slash and a .380 wOBA in Mookie Betts. Betts does go from the hitter haven of Fenway Park to a little bit tougher yard in Dodger Stadium, but Betts is ticketed for 6+ wins above replacement once again it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see more. Betts had 10.4 fWAR in 2018 when he carried a career-best .368 BABIP and .438 OBP to go along with his elite defensive profile.
If I sat here and talked about all of the accolades and potential for this Dodgers lineup, we’d be here forever. Betts could very well be the missing piece. Cody Bellinger might be the second-best all-around hitter (player?!) in baseball after his .305/.406/.629 slash, .415 wOBA, and career-best 47 home runs. From 2018 to 2019, Bellinger shaved 7.5% off of his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate by 3.5%. He is one of the game’s best hitters and he got even better in his third full season in The Show. It is entirely possible that we have not even seen the best of Bellinger yet, which is absolutely terrifying.
Oh, yeah, and Bellinger is actually an elite defensive outfielder by Sprint Speed and Outs Above Average, two of the newer metrics made public through Statcast. Joc Pederson is a good outfielder that mashes against the fat side of the platoon against right-handed pitchers. The Angels nixed a deal that would have given them Pederson, so now the Dodgers just have more offense and more flexibility. Pederson slashed .252/.349/.571 with a 137 wRC+ and a .377 wOBA against righties last season.
So that’s your Dodgers outfield, with AJ Pollock, Chris Taylor, and Enrique Hernandez fighting for playing time against lefties. Around the horn, Justin Turner posted a 132 wRC+, primarily at third base. Max Muncy had a 134 wRC+ and played first, second, and third. Corey Seager had a 113 wRC+ at shortstop. The Dodgers can go with star prospect Gavin Lux or Taylor or Hernandez at second base and not even miss a beat.
Oh, yeah, and catcher Will Smith hit 15 homers in just 196 plate appearances and slashed .253/.337/.571.
If we go by wRC+, where 100 is league average, the best offense of all-time is the 1927 Yankees, who posted a wRC+ of 126 with a .307/.384/.488 slash line and a .400 wOBA. Given that wRC+ accounts for the park factors, the league, and the run environment, I would not be surprised to see the Dodgers with the highest wRC+ ever. Last year’s Houston Astros posted a wRC+ of 125. Remember that the 1927 Yankees only struck out 9.8% of the time, as the game was much different back then. It would be impossible to match that OBP in the current state of the game, but the Dodgers could very well have the best wRC+ ever.
As a general rule, I typically don’t like taking season win totals with no margin for error. I like to look for high-variance teams. The Dodgers, even with a win total north of 100, have an offense that is easily good enough to make me think long and hard about it. There is not a single weakness and the team has enough depth and flexibility to overcome injuries. Obviously an injury to Bellinger or Betts or somebody would lower the ceiling a bit, but the Dodgers still have top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz, Lux, and a versatile and talented bench.
Ah yes. Adding Mookie Betts to a team that was first in ERA, second in FIP, second in xFIP, third in K%, and first in BB%. So, the offense got better and the pitching staff also got better with Betts motoring around the outfield in Chavez Ravine.
The Dodgers did get a lot of mileage out of Hyun-Jin Ryu last season. Credit to him for managing to stay healthy in a walk year because health had been an ongoing problem. He posted a 2.32 ERA with a 3.10 FIP and a 3.32 xFIP in his 182.2 innings of work. That 4.8 fWAR was a career-best, but not something I would have relied on again. Instead, he moved on to Toronto. Kenta Maeda also moves on, but he may need a clean slate. He posted a 4.04/3.95/4.04 pitcher slash in his 153.2 innings. Maeda, like Ryu, generally had issues staying healthy.
The Dodgers have to replace 336.1 pretty darn good innings from Ryu and Maeda. Where will they turn? Well, they’ll get to give Ross Stripling a long look now that the Angels backed out of the trade to acquire him. To be totally honest, I have no idea why the Dodgers would want to trade Stripling. His Statcast metrics suggest that he has elite stuff and he has a career 3.51/3.60/3.49 pitcher slash in 387 innings. He’s held the opposition to a .308 wOBA in 1,063 plate appearances as a starter, but it was a .296 wOBA in 70 innings last season. He’s got almost a K per inning and really looks like the real deal to me.
Of course, the Dodgers could also turn to Julio Urias as a starter once again. Urias made eight starts and 37 total appearances last season with a 2.49 ERA, 3.43 FIP, and 4.28 xFIP over 79.2 innings. Health is and will always be the question for Urias.
To me, he’s better in a relief role for them, but we’ll see how the Dodgers try to use him. Getting Alex Wood back means that Urias could be ticketed back to the bullpen, as Wood looks to rebound from an ugly, injury-riddled season with the Reds. In his three-year stint with the Dodgers from 2016-18, Wood had a 3.29 ERA with a 3.39 FIP and a 3.49 xFIP in 62 starts and some relief outings.
The Dodgers are plenty used to putting kid gloves on their pitchers, so the David Price situation may work out just fine. Price is still plenty valuable while he’s out there and may fill sort of that Ryu role of being asked to throw 125-150 innings and be effective in the process. That may fit Price to a tee now. Last season’s command hiccup could be a thing of the past. Even if it isn’t Dodger Stadium will help. The increased K% from last season is a nice addition.
Clayton Kershaw may not be the dominant, perennial Cy Young candidate that we remember, but he worked 178.1 really good innings last season with a 3.03/3.86/3.50 pitcher slash. He was also remarkably consistent, as the opposition had a .281 wOBA in the first half and a .280 wOBA in the second half. That being said, his K% did spike from 23.3% in the first half to 31.1% in the second half. He may be closer to old Kershaw than we think. A lot closer. As in, that version may be back in 2020.
And I’ve saved the best for last. One of these years, Walker Buehler is winning a Cy Young. It may very well have been this past season, but the Dodgers screwed Buehler up in Spring Training and it took him a little bit of time to get on track. Buehler had some discomfort in Arizona and the Dodgers took it really easy with him, opting not to ramp him up. Buehler gave up 11 earned runs over his first 12 innings.
He gave up 55 over his last 170.1 innings. From April 17 on, Buehler had a 2.91 ERA and FIP with 206 K in 27 starts. He had some hiccups and bad starts along the way, but he also had games with 15 and 16 strikeouts and looked every bit the ace that he was supposed to be. If Buehler gets through Spring Training healthy, this is going to be the year for him.
When teams look as perfect as the Dodgers do, we try really hard to find something to criticize. This season, that something is the bullpen. But, Kenley Jansen anchors a group that has a lot of options. Yimi Garcia looks like a big loss with a 3.61 ERA over 64 appearances, but a 5.19 FIP and a 4.90 xFIP say otherwise. Joe Kelly had a 4.56 ERA, but also a 3.78 FIP and a 3.19 xFIP, so he should be fine. Dylan Floro had an identical 65.6% LOB% to Kelly and also posted a much better FIP at 3.56 than ERA at 4.24.
If Stripling or Urias aren’t starters, we’ll find them here. Blake Treinen is only one season removed from posting a ridiculous 0.78/1.82/2.42 pitcher slash in 68 appearances for the A’s. Adam Kolarek and Caleb Ferguson give the Dodgers some looks from the left-handed side. The Dodgers also have Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Dennis Santana, among others, to consider.
Depth for days with the pitching staff, too.
Positives & Negatives
One worry that could pop up for the Dodgers is complacency. This team has one goal and that is to win a World Series. Nothing really matters until the playoffs. The Dodgers won the division by 21 games last season and will likely do something similar this season. A lot of good it did them, as they were bounced in the NLDS by the Washington Nationals. The two prior years, the Dodgers lost in the World Series.
As if the offense and the pitching weren’t enough, the Dodgers also led baseball in defensive runs saved last season with 136. UZR wasn’t nearly as kind to the Dodgers as DRS, so depending on how you quantify defense, you can say that the Dodgers were the best in baseball or a little bit above average. I tend to be on the side that puts them much closer to elite.
Pick: Over 101.5
As I’ve said several times over, I generally don’t bet overs or unders with extreme season win total lines. Man, is this one tempting. I actually bet the under Astros season win total back in 2018 and, boy, that was stupid. It was 98.5 and they flew over. I wouldn’t make that mistake with this Dodgers team. This may be the best team we’ve seen in the last 75 years, in all honesty.
The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games and the 1998 New York Yankees won 114 games. I don’t think we are talking about the Dodgers as a team that can win that many games, but a similar level of dominance to the ’98 Yankees wouldn’t stun me. Remember that those Yankees also went 11-2 in the playoffs with a World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres. That team outscored the opposition by 309 runs in the regular season.
The 2019 Dodgers lost six in a row to fall from 8-2 to 8-8. From that point forward, they lost more than two in a row just twice. Once was going into the All-Star Break. The other was to end August. They responded by going 18-6 in September with a +57 run differential. They had a winning record against every NL West opponent and the closest season series was with the Diamondbacks at 11-8. The Dodgers outscored them by 26 runs.
This team is dominance personified. They even have the depth to withstand a few injuries. They were 52-24 in the first half after that 8-8 start and 46-24 in the second half. Ridiculous. They never lost more than 11 games in a month. And they added Mookie Betts.
I don’t know if I will end up breaking my rule and betting on the season win total over here, but I don’t see how I could ever bet the under. Make of that what you will, but the pick for the guide is the over.